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Notes: Before I offered up for auction GSM's completion date, I had ten extant, unedited chapters of the fic; I'm going to post them as I edit them. Any new chapters of GSM will be posted as they're written and beta'd if my auction is won for $150 or more. fodirteg and lalaith_niniel were good enough to beta this chapter. Did you miss Chapter Thirty-Seven?

Complete header information may be found in Part One. You may find all parts of this story by clicking the Getting Severus Married tag.


Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Father

Harry had often been lonely when on assignment and wished that Ron and Hermione were with him, as they'd been when the three of them were in school together. They'd worked well together, had entered Auror training together, and had thought that they'd meet the end together. But after Hermione's brush with death—the one that had caused Ron to leave the DMLE and his friends—Harry had been cautious about bringing Ron into his confidence; he'd known that Ron wanted to remain well out of the business of war, far from thoughts of Hermione coming to harm, and he'd elected to respect his friend's wishes. It had been a lonely, confusing, frustrating time; initially, Harry had been furious with Ron, but when his friend had got married and then started a family, the things Harry had seen during the course of his duties had made him glad that Ron wasn't a part of the life he was leading, himself.

Staring through his unshed tears into the blank, glassy face of Sirius' mirror, however, Harry could think of no one that he needed more than his best friend. He was in shock, he realised, and he needed someone who would be able to tell him what to do—the right thing to do—because all he knew to do was to go after Aries without thinking, without planning, without waiting.

And that might very well get my son killed.

Harry didn't want that, no matter who Aries' mother was, or how Aries had come to be conceived; it wasn't his son's fault that he'd been born.

Aries is an innocent. I have to protect him, Harry thought, lowering the mirror and shuddering with remorse as he remembered Severus.

The events of the past few months rose in his mind like images in a film, and Harry viewed them dispassionately, as if he were sitting too far away from the screen to discern them clearly.

Severus. . . . Fuck. I . . . I can't think of him now. There isn't time and . . . and he wouldn't have me now, would he?

Harry realised that the end of his participation in the Courtship Ritual had come as he'd early on believed it would, but rather than feeling relieved, he felt as if the moment was absurdly anti-climactic. He would have to go carefully, bow out quietly—send off his apologies in a letter.

I can't tell him why. He might try to help me, and that would put him in harm's way.

Harry wasn't about to allow Severus to risk himself.

Not for me.

~*~

"But I want to!" Ronnie was complaining, as his Uncle Harry Apparated into the front yard of his home. "All the other boys get to!"

"That may be, but the other boys don't have to go to lessons with a speech therapist on Wednesday mornings," Lavender told her son firmly. "Now, go and—oh! Harry," she said, her eyes widening as she saw him. "Are you—"

"Uncle Hawwy!" Ronnie exclaimed, rushing towards Harry and then stopping short when he saw the expression on his face.

Harry attempted a smile as he knelt and gestured for Ronnie to come hug him. "Hi, there. How's my little . . . my little trampling demon?"

"He's quite well. Go into the house, Ronald Arthur," Lavender instructed briskly, "and tell your father to come out here, please."

With a worried glance for his uncle, Ronnie obeyed.

Faintly, Lavender said, "Good boy," watching as Harry made no move to stand. After a moment, she took a step towards him and asked, "What's happened?"

"Where's Harry?"

Lavender furrowed her brow. "Sleeping—he has a cold. Harry, are you—"

Harry stood abruptly. "How did you feel? How did you feel when the boys were born?"

"Complete."

"And what would you do if they were in trouble? If someone threatened them?"

"I'd kill anyone who threatened my boys."

Harry found that he understood the flash of darkness that shot through Lavender's eyes and said, with unexpected fervour, "Thank you."

"For what? Harry, you're scaring me. Wha—"

"That's exactly how I feel. . . . Scared," Harry answered, abstractedly looking over Lavender's shoulder at Ron, who'd just appeared, smiling, in the doorway.

Ron's smile faded the moment he saw Harry's expression.

"I need to speak to Ron."

"Of . . . of course. Would you two like sandwiches? I could—"

"Thanks, love," Ron said, reaching for the hand that Lavender had placed on her shoulder as she was wont to do in expectation of his taking it; kissing her hair, he continued, "but I think Harry would rather walk up to the pub. I'll fire-call you later."

"Be safe," Lavender called after them, as they walked away silently.

~*~

"Is there a place where we can be?" Harry asked, several minutes of pensive silence later.

"Safe?"

"Yeah. I can't risk other people hearing what I need to say."

Ron stopped walking and took a deep breath. He'd known Harry long enough to know that if his friend needed privacy before he could talk to him, things must be very bad, indeed.

Where can we go? Where can we go to be completely— "The Hall of Monuments," he said, turning to regard Harry. "Only the dead will hear us there."

Harry nodded and took Ron's arm; suddenly, they were standing in a long cool hall.

His eyes fixing upon the memorial plaque for Charlus Potter, Ron shivered and essayed, "This isn't about the Courtship Ritual." And it probably wasn't a good idea, suggesting you bring us here. I'm an idio

"No. It's not about the Courtship Ritual. . . Ron, I . . . I have a son."

"What?" Ron asked, stunned, his voice echoing loudly off the walls.

Harry didn't reply, and Ron stood stiffly in trepidation as the sound was absorbed into the usual sepulchral peace of the Hall.

"Sorry, but . . . but . . . a son? Congra—" No, you git! He doesn't look happy. "I mean," what the hell am I supposed to say? "how?"

Harry wrapped his arms about his chest and hung his head.

"You've only just found out?" Ron asked, gently laying a hand on Harry's shoulder.

He nodded.

"I can see it was a shock, but . . . but Harry, a son . . . that's not bad news, is it? I mean, I guess that it must have been awful to learn that you'd missed so many years of his life—Cho might have told you—"

Harry's tear-choked bark of laughter stopped Ron from speaking.

Jerking away from him and walking across the slightly luminescent stones to stare at nothing, Harry said, "It wasn't Cho."

"I don't know what to say, Harry—I guess I just assumed it was Cho because I don't remember you ever seeing any other bird, and—"

"My son is six-years-old," Harry interrupted. "He'd have to be. Don't you understand?"

Ron watched Harry begin to shake and cast his mind back to the year two thousand. He and Lavender had been married in February—in fact, they would be celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary on the twenty-first—and Harry had become an Auror Third Class that September. Ron remembered his visit to the Novitiate then, and how much fun he and Harry'd had while poking fun at the would-be Aurors First Class as they complained about having to wait until November for the results of their final licensing exams. Ron couldn't, however, remember any relationship of Harry's that would have resulted in a child.


Harry wasn't seeing Bill, yet—not that I would have missed it if Bill had got him pregnant. . . . Wait, if Harry's son is six, he was probably conceived in ninety-nine, but when would Harry have had time to experiment with heterosexuality then? Ron thought, furrowing his brow as he cast a worried glance in Harry's direction. Nineteen ninety-nine . . . .

Ron hated thinking about that year. It had begun badly: Hermione had almost been killed in Kent by Death Eaters at the end of January, and he'd left the DMLE in February. The guilt he'd felt knowing that his friends were fighting and he wasn't had been almost impossible to bear when Harry had gone missing towards the end of September.

He showed up on third October at the Ministry, the day before he killed Voldemort, and we learnt that that bitch had . . . had— "Fuck!" Ron exclaimed, startled by his outrage as he realised what Harry couldn't bring himself to say. "FUCK! THAT BITCH! SHE RAPED YOU! I'LL KILL HER!"

Harry staggered, and Ron rushed to his side to prevent his falling, blinking back furious tears.

Shut up, shut up, shut up! Ron shouted at himself. You're not helping. Shut up and calm down. "Harry, shit—I'm sorry—please—I shouldn't have—I'll kill—oh, hell!" Ron babbled, before taking his own advice and ceasing to speak while he pulled Harry into an embrace and rocked him.

He wasn't at all certain if he was holding Harry because Harry needed it, or if it was because he did, but Ron couldn't have been made to let go for anything. He hugged Harry until Harry pulled away and looked at him, his eyes impossibly dry.

"Ron," he said hoarsely, "Ron, I need your help."

"You have it. Anything. Where is he? How did you find out? Does she—"

"Ron," Harry said, in somewhat more firm a tone, "I think we need to sit down."

~*~

Ron shifted on the cold stone bench in the centre of the crypt, trying to manipulate blood back into his buttocks. He'd been listening to Harry speak quietly and calmly for over an hour, and now that he'd explained everything, Ron knew that Harry was waiting for his second reaction.

No, he's waiting for me to tell him what to do, he realised, with a start. Admittedly, Ron had been silently making plans to save Aries while Harry unfolded his tale, and it was gratifying to know that Harry wanted—no, needed—his help, but it was also terrifying. I'm not an Auror. I ran. "I didn't fight, Harry. I don't know how to—"

"Bollocks."

"What?"

"What you just said—bollocks. I know that you're not a coward."

"That isn't what you said when—"

"I was angry. I was angry when you left the DMLE. I was angry when you left Hermione. I'm not angry now."

"Hermione left me," Ron said suddenly, watching in fascination as Harry's expression became blank.

"That's bollocks, as well. You abandoned her."

"I didn't abandon her by leaving the DMLE!"

"No," Harry said, continuing to stare at Ron unblinkingly. "You abandoned her in Sixth Year when you took up with Lavender, and everything between you and Hermione after that—before you went back to Lavender—was based on guilt. You knew you didn't love her anymore. You just thought you should."

"Fuck you," Ron spat, rising from the bench and stalking to the end of the crypt.

"'M done with Weasleys, thanks," Harry replied, his voice echoing hollowly off the stones, "and you've got some nerve, blaming Hermione, don't you?"

"Fuck you!" Ron called, knowing that Harry was right but also finding himself helpless, under the emotional onslaught of the day's revelations, to be anything other than an arse. Despite this, he knew that he wasn't truly angry at Harry, and viciously, he vowed, When I kill her, I'm going to enjoy it.

It was the period of some moments before Ron calmed down enough to realise that, before he could avenge Harry by twisting Bellatrix Lestrange's neck until it snapped and she was dead, they would have to find Aries.

And before we can find Harry's son, we've got to plan, he thought, turning around to look at Harry. You've got to get Harry treated for shock, haven't you, you bloody stupid git. "It's like it just happened to you, isn't it?" he whispered then, tentatively approaching the stone bench and searching Harry's face.

Harry's face fell, and he nodded.

"Harry. Harry," Ron repeated, as he knelt in front of him, suddenly feeling wary of touching him or looming over him, "it wasn't your fault. None of it was your fault, and—"

"Wh—at?" Harry asked, his voice cracking. "Are you going to tell me that everything is going to be all right?" he demanded.

"Yeah," Ron replied, as firmly as he could force himself to without feeling like a liar. "Everything's going to be all right"—eventually, somehow. It is, damn it. I don't know how, but

"Okay."

"What?"

"Okay. I believe you. Everything is going to be all right."

"Good." That's good. I can work with that. We can work with that. "Now, what about Snape? Does he—"

"No!"

Shit, Ron thought, blinking up at Harry. There's a lot more than shock and planning to deal with, here.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
betelin_notecor
Jul. 14th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
"Everything's going to be all right"

I'm glad you didn't write anything about all being well. ;)

And I loved the Ron monologue. He's such a dork, but I do adore him. XD
iulia_linnea
Jul. 15th, 2008 10:36 am (UTC)
*snorts*

I don't think all will be well for some time, but I'm working on it. ;) And Ron is love, I agree!
spike7451
Jul. 15th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
Adore Ron in this and his internal monologue. Even so, he is a good friend to Harry.
Let's hope Ron convinces him to talk to Severus before they blunder blindly in, not knowing everything and make things worse.
iulia_linnea
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Adore Ron in this and his internal monologue.

Yay!
mollyssister
Nov. 5th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
I find myself oddly comforted that Harry has turned to Ron. Not that Ron is the voice of caution but I can see him being more responsible now that he is a father. Holy HELL this is scary!!!
iulia_linnea
Nov. 8th, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC)
*huge grin*
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )